Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

Without doubt, one of the most consistent aspects of Zombie Hamster is Matty and I writing from the same hymn sheet, sharing a harmonious adoration for those orphaned schlockers, abandoned by the mass populace. A rare moment of disunity though, comes with our feelings towards The Asylum. The prevalence of these cynically-marketed stinkers is pretty much the bane of my ZH cohorts life, while I, on the other hand, treasure my hard copies of a frightening number of pictures that bear David Michael Latt’s name.

It’s ten years now since I stumbled across Snakes on a Train, before following it up with purchases of Transmorphers, I am Omega and a hundred or so more. Critically speaking, they’re utter dirge, and the majority of them are devoid of any redeeming features whatsoever, but, as I’ve said on several occasions, I feel they possess that same chintzy charm that you get from fifties stalwarts such as Cat-Women of the Moon, Attack of the Giant Leeches and The Manster.

Their latest to hit the UK is 3-HEADED SHARK ATTACK, where a group of scientists embark on a mission to study an ocean garbage patch but instead stumble across a clutch of mutated sea species. With the grotesque discovery displaying aggressive behaviour and advanced intelligence, this ferocious killing machine begins to wreak havoc, eating its way from the end of one cruise ship to another.

After making the foolish mistake of starting this mid-afternoon, I thankfully regained temporary sanity and rescheduled this aquatic-based romp for a beer-fuelled session of midnight madness. However, the insistence of such a bleary-eyed caveat may have been a little premature, as Christopher Olen Ray’s sequel to his own 2-Headed Shark Attack isn’t half bad – well, for an Asylum film. Having released the reasonably recommendable Mercenaries last year, Olen Ray clearly has his father’s knack for squeezing something watchable from limited resources. Contrary to most shot-for-Syfy pictures, there’s a wee bit of nudity and gore to elevate it from inoffensive PG-13 territory, while the shark itself is rendered to a level that early Asylum movies could only dream of. Admittedly, if you played a drinking game every time there was a slow-motion action sequence, then you’d be under the table by reel three, but for the princely sum of five English pounds, it’s superlative z-grade entertainment.

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Werewolf movies over the last few years seem to have schizophrenically veered from the incredibly bad like Silverhide and Werewolf Rising, to the incredibly good, such as Late Phases and Wer, with little in-between. This week though, the release of BEAST WITHIN aka UNCAGED sees a film straddle both the cusp of greatness and mediocrity.

Orphaned as a child in the wake of a grisly tragedy, Jack (Ben Getz) was raised alongside his cousin and best friend, Brandon (Zack Weiner). Now eighteen, Jack’s life takes a sinister turn when he’s suddenly plagued by a series of bizarre sleepwalking episodes. After repeatedly waking in the woods naked, with no memory of the nights events, he straps a camera to himself to document his behaviour – and discovers a shocking truth.

Holding the DTV Junkyard record for most crossings out in my notebook, Beast Within is an immensely frustrating film to evaluate in a couple of hundred words. Structurally it’s a complete mess; the film is peppered with sudden shifts in tone that really impact upon the flow, while its packed script could have done with a really stringent edit to remove a plethora of superfluous narrative strands. On the flip side though, director Daniel Robbins and co-scribe Mark Rapaport have created three really cool characters with Jack, his friend Turner (Kyle Kirkpatrick) and most notably the geekily awesome Brandon. The films comedic subtleties are a draw during most of the running time, while the werewolf action is nicely underplayed. There’s also some really impressive EC Comics style animation inserted at various points during the movie, that you really can’t help but give this a cautious recommendation.

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A DTV flick with Michael Madsen, Danny Trejo, Mischa Barton and Daniel Baldwin? Lead me to this bountiful prize immediately! I’m sure this would be the first thought of the majority of us direct-to-video enthusiasts, and I have a feeling that in most cases where a glut of b-movie stars align in grot-heaven, we’d be rewarded with an action spectacular of truly epic proportions. HOPE LOST, however, is unlikely to moisten the brows of those of us feverishly anticipating a ninety minute orgy of gunplay and hand-to-hand combat.

Directed by David Petrucci, the film centres around Sofia (Francesca Acquaroli), who finds herself sold into the violent and sleazy world of the Italian sex world. It’s a grim tale, punctuated by really unpleasant moments of sexual violence that urge you to engage in a post-movie shower just to wash yourself clean from the ugly sequences you’ve been privy to. Ghastliness aside, Hope Lost is by no means a bad film if you have the patience and perseverance for a glimpse into this dire underworld.  Just make sure you hide the bleach and the majority of your sharp cutlery beforehand.

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